Van donation pays it forward for local family

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Last spring, the Petersons were given this van to help them transport their daughter Audrina, who requires a wheelchair.

It was the second time someone had donated a vehicle to the East Pembroke family. So when they had the opportunity, rather than just sell their old van, they decided to pay it forward.

“It wasn’t surprising, because in the short time that I’ve come to know them, this is the kind of people they are,” said
Pete Andrews, the founder and director of Christian Youth Corps, which help to coordinate Monday’s donation. “If they can help somebody, they will.”

And that’s just what happened Monday in the parking lot at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf. On a bright, warm fall day, Eileen Peterson changed the life of the Suarez family.

“I had to wait 18 years for this blessing,” Mrs. Suarez said through translator Enid Mojica-McGinnis, the coordinator for parent education at St. Mary’s. “But still, me and my daughters have had to carry my daughter for 18 years, until the blessing came.”

For the past 18 years, Suarez — or her daughters — had to lift Karen and her chair into and out of a regular minivan. The Peterson’s, whose daughter Audrina has Ollier’s Maffuci syndrome — a very rare disease —  had a vehicle to spare, and it was already outfitted.

“We were blessed with this gift and we just wanted another family to experience the same thing,” Eileen said. “The feelings that our family experienced when we were given this gift. Really, her world was opened up. It took days to comprehend what had been given to us. We were just so in awe that there’s goodness in this world.”

That goodness filled St. Mary’s parking lot — and the hearts of the Suarez family.

“Many thoughts are coming to my mind, but the biggest thing is that God is real,” Suarez said. “They’re passing a blessing. They’re really touched by God, and God has moved their heart, and he’s moving my heart now.”

As it turns out, Monday’s donation wasn’t just a van. In addition to giving them the ability to travel together, it will provide the Suarez family a much easier life.

“We can go out now as a family, together. We don’t have to make so much of an effort like before,” Mrs. Suarez said.

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